Frank McCourt died today. Frank was a New York City teacher for a good part of his life, and you can read about it in Teacher Man. I did twice, and will likely do so again one of these days. Most readers, like me, first made Frank's acquaintance via his masterpiece Angela's Ashes. This was the story of his childhood, and no one but Frank could have written it:
When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.
As bad as it was, Frank never abandoned his optimism, his humor, or the remarkable tone that made his story something you just could not put down. The film version of Angela's Ashes told the story sans the tone and was largely unwatchable.
Sadly, Frank's writing career didn't begin until he was well into his sixties. It yielded three memoirs (all of which you should read immediately if you haven't yet done so). It's tragic that the world has lost such a great voice--a voice full of wit and inspiration for anyone curious enough to listen.
Unlike the "experts" who ape whatever trendy ideas the tabloids spout, Frank knew quite a bit about education. Teacher Man shows us a thoughtful, creative, inspiring and original soul--precisely the sort of person you'd want to teach your kid. Frank didn't have some cookie-cutter approach to education, and never advocated one either. He found his own voice both as a teacher and a writer.
And Frank McCourt was one of the great voices of our time--someone who truly can't be replaced.
Rest in peace, Teacher Man. If anyone's earned it, it's you.